OFFICIAL DANCE: There was a day when states had an official motto and an official bird and perhaps an official flower, and that was that. As elementary kids we memorized a handful of symbols and were able to rattle them off, proudly, as we stood on stage before our teachers. But state symbols have grown over the years -- can you name all 50 state cookies? -- and our knack for knowing our own state's roster of emblems has likely faded a bit since school. But one symbol all lovers of culture -- and that's all of us, yes? -- should have emblazoned upon their mind is the state dance for the place they call home. Right? Because dance is one of the first expressions, and a way for people to let loose, summon joy, and pay dramatic homage to an area's heritage, all in one fell swoop or fancy dip of the hip. We won't quiz you as to what California's official state dance might be, but we'll just bet you won't be surprised. "West Coast" is in the name, naturally, and the style? It's swing, a loosey-goosey, big-limbed, live-large rollick that fits our state's own big spirit to a razzmatazzy T. If you want to see our state's official dance in practice, or maybe practice yourself, make for Monterey in the middle of January, where talented practitioners of the form'll be dolled up and dancing up a proverbial storm.
SWINGFEST 2014: Workshops and contests fill the Thursday, Jan. 16 through Sunday, Jan. 20 schedule, with some daily open dance sessions, too. Plenty of smartie, moves-perfect teachers'll be on hand to advise and help, too, so consider this an excellent place to polish moves. Plus? There are dances that pair up people randomly, as well as those where you keep your partner. Ohhh, challenging. But doesn't that reflect the state, too? We're a try-anything bunch, and if we have to make a dance work with a new partner, we're going to succeed. Make for the Monterey Hyatt and don't forget your dancing shoes/skirt/crinoline/suit or what have you. West Coast Swing is pretty panache-y, so bring the look.